Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu are all here, but one senses an absence this twinkly April evening in Los Angeles. There's a distinct lack of butt-kicking, for instance. No lush lip gloss or slo-mo hair-flinging either. And the only jammin' soundtrack comes from Diaz, who quite often lets loose an addictive pretty-pony guffaw.
Life can't all be Charlie's Angels. But on the bright side, there is a little girl-on-girl action: Barrymore and Liu are ladies unafraid to swat each other's rumps, and Diaz occasionally punctuates a laugh by grabbing her own breasts and jiggling them. We're in a cozy Beverly Hills hotel suite, an ambrosial banquet sits before us, and the Angels -- here to dish about their amped-up sequel, Full Throttle -- are looking predictably fine. Diaz, 30, blond hair clipped up, silver hoop earrings swaying in rhythm to her generous gesturing, has claimed the couch. Barrymore, 28, snug in an armchair, sports long blond ringlets and rock-star eye shadow. Liu, 34, completes the circle, serene in a periwinkle sweater, the only one of the group who sips water instead of wine.
The ladies, who talk at, with, over, and through one another like old college roomies, are the very definition of salty-sweet: Even their profanity is perky. They have reason to be sunny. Released in 2000, Charlie's Angels had a first-time director (McG, now 33), who'd previously shot only music videos, and suffered through countless script overhauls and myriad rumors of on-set girlfights (denied) and tiffs with Bill Murray, who played Angel supervisor Bosley (exaggerated, but not entirely untrue). Sounded like hell. Even Barrymore, who also coproduced the first film and had long lobbied for the project, was spooked. When the first film opened, she hopped a flight to Tokyo with Liu so she could ''spend the entire opening weekend of this film in the air over the sea, which I thought was the safest place.''
There was no need. The ''hard on bad guys, easy on the eyes'' formula, along with Angels' amiably silly tone, earned the film $264.1 million worldwide. For the sequel, the gang traded in Murray for Bernie Mac (as Bosley's brother -- don't ask), added John Cleese (as Liu's rich daddy), sprinkled in cameos from Bruce Willis to the Olsen twins, and created a new villain in Demi Moore. The film's $100 million-plus budget in part reflects the trio's new Serious Player salaries (reportedly Liu leaped to $4 million, Barrymore jumped to $14 million against 12 percent of the film's gross, plus a producing fee, and Diaz hit $20 million, a height she shares with just one woman, Julia Roberts). Of course, the money also reflects Throttle's all-that-and-a-cherry-on-top mentality: When the film opens June 27, we'll be watching the detectives motocross, surf, fistfight, smooch, boogie, and jump out of a bas-relief naked -- all while maintaining their distinct I'm okay, you're okay vibe.
''We never wanted it to be a female-empowerment movie,'' McG says. ''We wanted it to be a humanity-empowerment movie. 'Hey, you, little fat boy, you're invited too! Hey, old woman; hey, you, black man, Asian girl! Everybody get in the back of this convertible and make it happen.''' Get ready for one wacky road trip. Here, Poo, Poo, and Pussy (as Diaz, Barrymore, and Liu, respectively, dub one another) discuss the fashioning of a franchise, their fab friendship, and Diaz's freaky feet.